The Hert of New England
The Chickadee:
New England's (Unofficial) Favorite Bird
By Chris Bosak

Note: The Keene Sentinel (NH) bird columnist Chris Bosak polled his readers about
their favorite birds in an attempt to find out the area's unofficial favorite bird species. With
more than 120 votes received, below are the results.

Area birdwatchers see a little bit of themselves in the birds they appreciate the

Four of the top five vote-getters in the survey to determine the area's unofficial
favorite bird are year-round New England species, reflecting the area's hardy,
resourceful attitude and nature.

Before I get too far, let me preface by saying I fully realize that we all love all of
the birds and deeming one species as the area's favorite is not altogether fair to
the other birds. Let me also say that I full-heartedly appreciate all those who
voted. It was fun to receive the votes and exciting to watch the race for the area's
unofficial favorite bird materialize.

So, without running on further:

#1 Chickadee

The chickadee is hereby crowned as the area's favorite bird. It won a relatively
close race with the cardinal and ruby-throated hummingbird. The chickadee and
cardinal are frequent sightings year-round in New England, regardless of how
harsh conditions become. Sounds a lot like the people of New England

Voters most appreciated the chickadee for their reliability and sweetness. Voters
liked that chickadees stayed with us throughout the winter, even during the
harshest of times.

The cardinal was adored for similar reasons, but as much for their brilliant red
plumage as for their hardiness. Hummingbirds were admired for their tiny size
and dynamo personality.

But in the end, it was the chickadee's small stature and big heart that won out
over the equally (almost) lovable cardinal and hummingbird. A surprise
fourth-place finisher -- at least in my eyes -- was the pileated woodpecker. The
largest of the woodpeckers was also often mentioned by readers for runner-up
or honorable mention status.

The crow and raven also garnered plenty of support. If I would have combined
the crow and raven votes, the large, intelligent black birds would have given the
chickadee a run for its money. They may be much-maligned, but they are also
loved by just as many birders.

Tremendous Variety of Responses

The biggest surprise of the survey,  in general terms, was the tremendous
variety of responses. Almost 30 species of birds received at least one vote. I was
expecting the votes to be distributed among only a handful of birds. I was off by
a long shot.

Some species that I never expected to receive votes were nominated, such as the
killdeer, indigo bunting, and peregrine falcon. Readers enjoyed the common
birds as well as Canada goose and mallard also had support.

Mockingbirds, with their impressive songs, and bluebirds, with their uplifting
color, received a fair amount of support as well.

Popular Birds: Not so Popular?

On the other end of the spectrum, some birds I thought would fare well had
only a vote or two. The mockingbird with its fabulous voice; blue jay with its
brilliant colors; wood duck with its incredible array of colors; robin with its
reputation as being the harbinger of spring; red-winged blackbird with its mix
of color and bravado; and great blue heron with its impressive size managed
only a few votes each.

At least those birds got some votes. Not a single warbler received a vote, nor
did the cedar waxwing, bald eagle, wild turkey, oriole, or any sparrow species
receive even one vote.

Birds from "Away"

A few out-of-town birds did better than that, such as the flamingo, peacock and
steller's jay. The snowy owl, a rare winter visitor, had a couple of votes.

For the most part, though, New Englanders like the reliable year-round species.
All in all, there was a good mix of songbirds, ducks, birds of prey and other
birds represented in the votes. Area birdwatchers definitely seemed to favor the
year-round species over the colorful migrants that visit New England for a few
weeks each year.

The top species, though, offers the best of all worlds. Chickadees are reliable,
brave, quick with a song and hardy enough to withstand brutal winters. In other
words, true New Englanders.

About the author: Chris Bosak writes a weekly bird column for The Keene Sentinel
(NH) and
The Hour newspaper (Norwalk, CT).
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